a.k.a. One Old Guy’s Travels through the World of Multi-Channel Delivery
“When in doubt, mumble. When in trouble, delegate. When in charge, ponder.” -James Boren
Let’s talk about the multi-channel experience we’re all designing. As we get deeper into the world of branch/Internet/mobile delivery, a very clear planning tenet has been the development of a “seamless, consistent, easy cross-channel experience.” Perfectly valid. Nobody who lives in all of these channels will accept anything but easy. We already know that.
So, who at the bank owns the development of that experience? Well, my guess is that it is not anybody with “Executive” in his or her title. It is likely delegated lower than that in the organization. Remember this quote:
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” -Patton
For years, I have seen similar quotes on the walls of our clients’ offices and on the desks of executives. Statements like this have almost been gospel. Leaders need to set direction and delegate, but leave the details to the team. This philosophy has enormous appeal and has been used as a design principle for years.
But. When we think about the out-of-industry best-practice model to emulate for a great experience, who do we think about? Usually, two of the companies we look at and discuss are Apple and Amazon. Who hasn’t loved the iStore or an Amazon purchase experience?
What is interesting about these best practice companies is that Steve Jobs was and Jeff Bezos is absolutely obsessive about the details of the experience. They delegated absolutely nothing related to it. In fact, they shouted, stomped, criticized, shoved, and acted like jerks at every level of the company in legendary fashion until they thought the experience was at the highest possible level. Read some of their quoted about this:
Simply put, they not only won’t delegate the design of the experience, they see it as the foundation of their business. Now, I get all of the rejoinders we could come up with (they aren’t in financial services, banking is more subtle and complicated, good luck to them if they had our regulations), and I see the truth in them. But it doesn’t matter. We have an experience standard we need to design to.
So, with all this said, I asked myself a question: how is the industry doing in the area of cross-channel delivery? I’m not talking the simple sign-on, check your balance, move money between accounts kind of customer experience. The simple stuff is pretty well supported. But how about a more complicated transaction that would require me to use more than one channel? Well, there’s only one way to find out. So, over the last eight weeks, I set up interactions with every financial institution I deal with, and a new one or two that required me to cross channels. I have quite a few accounts, so my Petrie dish is pretty big (one offshoot of being a consultant – you open lots of accounts you don’t need so you can see how things work. By the way, my wife thinks I’m boring).
Here were the rules of my encounters:
Here is a summary of my journey – names withheld for reasons that will be obvious. I will swear to you, hand on the GonzoBanker skull, that this all happened.
Goal: Open a CD on line but with Family Trust ownership.
Day 1: Search for CD rates on my phone and see an ad for a CD rate that looks pretty good (new FI for me). Try to do anything after that on the phone and my eyes would fall out. So, go to the web site via laptop. See the options for ownership that do not include Revocable Trust (fair enough). Don’t see any chat or e-mail option but there is a phone number on the first page. Called and asked how to get this done. “We can’t open a trust account like that on line. What you need to do is open a joint account. Then, after it’s open and we enroll you for Internet banking, you can go to our service tab and get a form that allows you to change the joint account to a trust account.” Confused pause on my part. But, OK. So, we get an account opened (unfunded) in joint ownership and it happens fast, in a couple of minutes. I also get the Internet banking access.
Day 2: Go back on line to get the form to change from joint to trust but see that they have spelled my name wrong. E-mail to tell them. Get a same-day response that says sorry, we will fix by tomorrow.
Days 3-4: I’m busy. Bad on me as you shall witness.
Day 5: Go back to change the ownership but notice that the CD rate is now not being offered. Call (seems like e-mail won’t work) and ask if I can get the rate because I started the process while it was offered. Nyet. “We could have if you had wired the money the day you opened the account.” To be honest, I couldn’t completely argue with that but when I said that I really wanted to have the ownership right before the wire and that I would have wired it Day 1 but for this I was told, “I’m really sorry.” So, I get that I’m culpable in this one a bit. A little bit.
Final outcome: I don’t have a relationship with them. They don’t have one with me. MeridianLink made an application fee so at least they’re happy.
Goal: Change the Tax ID Number used to report to the IRS on a three-owner money market account.
Day 1: Logged in and tried to find where I could do that, and couldn’t on line (fair enough). Saw a “chat with an agent” button and clicked it. And waited. After three minutes, I gave up and decided to call. Two screen clicks to find the phone number. Called and got an agent almost immediately. Asked to change the Tax ID Number from owner 1 to owner 2. Reply: “We can’t do that. We’ll need to transfer to a new account to change the Tax ID number.” Really? “Right. That’s our policy.” So, fine. I asked how to do that and was told either I could go to a branch or they could e-mail me new documents. Opted for the latter.
Day 2: Documents arrive. Two signatures are easy to get but for the third we have to wait until we see her. Two days.
Day 4: Got the documents back to the FI. Got a note that I could look at the accounts on line. Signed on and noticed that there was an error in one digit of the Tax ID Number. Sent an e-mail asking for it to be corrected.
Day 5: Got an e-mail back that they couldn’t change the Tax ID Number until I showed them proof that the number I said to change it to was the right one. Called (somehow, a chat or e-mail wouldn’t do here) and explained that I had another account there that had been open for eight years that had my number and shouldn’t that suffice? “No, sorry. Our audit department requires that we validate that your number is correct.” And how could I do that? “COME BY A BRANCH AND SHOW US YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD.” Open question: how long would it take any of you to find the real, original, cardboard social security card you were issued if your very psychic existence, I mean your mortal soul, depended on it? How many of you even knew that such things existed?
I am now in a strange hell with too many twists, one being that there wasn’t a branch near me. But I am game and I will not be deterred from my mission.
Day 6: I opened a box of some really old stuff – I’m talking summer of love vintage. Against all odds (seriously) I find my Social Security Card in an old wallet. I also find a program from a Rolling Stones concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1965. Seriously. Whoa! Score!! Suddenly, this situation rocks! My wife even thought I wasn’t boring for about an hour. But back to the ugly reality of this transaction.
Day 7: I go (and I mean drive awhile) to an office and show them my Social Security Card. They make a copy (like I even care if they keep it, to be honest). Good to go. I explained what had happened and suggested that perhaps this entire encounter lacked that magical, make-me-feel-special service feeling. Response: “Yah. Man.”
Final outcome: All of this produced one change of a Tax ID Number. I’m reminded how much gas costs. Yah. Man.
Goal: Get all statements sent electronically (at this point, I needed a slam dunk).
Day 1: Sign on to Internet banking. Get an error message “We cannot retrieve account information. If this problem persists, please contact our support center.” Tried again and it persisted. One screen jump to get the phone number. Got an agent in 15 seconds. We decided it might be my password so she changed it. Same problem. Changed it again. Same problem. She apologized and said she has to check this one out with an Internet banking expert. On hold for two-three minutes. She’s back. Note: she is really friendly and really trying to help. Anyway, the reason for the error message is that I have not done a financial transaction on this account for six months. I pointed out that I had signed on to Internet banking during that time and that we’re not talking about dormancy, right? “Right, but you have to do a transaction to avoid this.” I point out that it’s a money market account and I don’t do transactions on at all. “Maybe you could transfer a dollar between accounts every six months?” So, I ask, I have to sign on every six months and transfer a dollar? “Actually, they said you could also do it in person.” Note: at this point, she’s completely on my side and trying to figure out any way I can game this rule. We can’t figure out a way to do it. Now we are at 30 minutes or so but I can, in fact, sign on for another six months.
Final outcome: I ask her to let “them” know that there’s good news and bad news from this encounter. The good news is that I’m going to do a financial transaction in the next six months. The bad news is that it’s going to be a whoop-ass withdrawal.
Goal: Change my Tax ID Number and see if I can get a modified 1099 with that number.
Day 1: Signed on to Internet banking. Decided to check and make sure on the Tax ID. Got a message: “You are not signed up for electronic documents.” Signed up for them. Easy peasy. Go back to look at the 1099 but nothing is there. Time for a chat or e-mail? No chat or e-mail option, so I call the number that is on the same page. With an agent in 30 seconds. The reason my document tab is empty? “You can only see documents that are created after you sign up.” Uh huh. Well, OK, I said, how about you check on what Tax ID Number is on my 1099? Need to verify my identity (fair enough). Mother’s maiden? Pass. Last four of Tax ID? (kind of ironic, since that’s my question for them). Pass. Man, I’m on a roll. Question 3: Last transaction on the account? Dead stop. I’m flummoxed. The problem, I explained, was that this was a savings account and I can’t really remember the last time I did anything on it. “Oh. Well, we’ll need to figure something out.” I offer that I know the balance. No soap. I guessed at an amount and a month in 2012. “Nope. That’s not it.” So, I offer that the only way I could know this is to go back into statements from previous years (if I have them) and find something but that might take some time. “I’ll be happy to hold on.” So, I get a B12 shot, recite my mantra for a while, and go look through some old records and actually find a year-end statement I scanned (God, my wife is right – boring). Back on the phone and give her a transaction date/amount. “Perfect!”
We’re now well past 10 minutes.
So, then I ask if I can modify the 1099 with another Tax ID Number that belongs to one of the other account owners. She doesn’t know but offers to transfer me to another department that would know. This happens instantly. Same question. “No. We can’t go back and change a 1099. Is there anything else we can help you with?”
Final outcome: I stare out at my gray, bleak world and hang up. My rear end is kicked, right through the uprights.
Goal: Add an account to my online banking access on which I am a secondary owner (i.e., not my Tax ID on the account).
Day 1: Signed on to Internet banking. Couldn’t see the account (obviously – fair enough). Saw a “contact us” button (so maybe it wouldn’t have made Steve Jobs jealous, but it was prominent). Click on that then click for chat. Response back pretty fast: “I’m Julie. How can I help you?” I explain what I need and mention that I have not had much luck with service issues lately. “How about we set a goal that I’ll fix you up in less than two minutes?” Man, I’m game. Verify tax, mother’s maiden. Check. Fifteen seconds. “I see the accounts.” So, does it matter that the Tax ID is different? “No. I can see it’s you. No problem.” Forty-five seconds. So how long will this take? “Go look now.” Done. Seventy-five seconds. “Can you hold on a minute? I think we might have charged you a fee we shouldn’t have.” So can you fix it? “No, that wasn’t a fee. Sorry. Just wanted to check.” So, how nice is it that she wanted to make sure? “You know, you could make more interest on this account.” A notch under two minutes and she is cross-selling me and I’m thinking about that transaction I have to do at the other place in six months. So, now I want to know what call center she works in because I want to offer her a job at Cornerstone. She’s not in Phoenix. Damn.
Final outcome: Fast. Friendly. Great style. Looking out for me when I didn’t ask. Snuck in a cross-sell. This was a really good experience. Sign me up for two minutes of that any time.
So, one really solid experience and four absolute head-scratchers.
I do want to point out that everybody I corresponded with was nice, regardless of the communication method. They all really wanted to help. But, in four cases out of five they got tripped up by technology, lack of knowledge/training or, to put it very kindly, plain ridiculous rules, procedures or processes at every point in the encounter.
Now, I’m not naming names but I will disclose one thing to those of you who are already saying “never here”. You may be 100% right, but I’ll say this. The first four encounters were with community banks and credit unions, all of which say they compete with the monolith banks with superior service. Encounter #5, the one that was killer good, was with Bank of America.
So, back to my original question. What would Steve and Jeff say? Well, if they weren’t in cardiac arrest they be so spitting, Tazmanian Devil mad that people would be running for the exits. They would be changing management out on the spot.
It’s funny. When I started this little project, it wasn’t really with the goal of writing an article, but the experiences were so striking that it turned into one. My takeaway: when you are dealing with increasingly tech-savvy clients who live and breathe on the web and social media, the experience you give them will be your brand. It will. Now, many of your shops may never give a client the experience I had. But who’s making sure? Who is the senior manager who’s the pain-in-the-rear voice that calls out delivery that is lacking? Who is the line of business manager who gets venomous about stupid rules? When is the last time your management team dissected your encounters with clients with a passion for getting every detail right? Who has the culture that roots this kind of superman-level dumb stuff out and kills it with kryptonite?
Steve and Jeff are right on this one.
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